Why would anybody read me…

…when they could be reading Simcha Fisher?  Jeepers, she’s fun!

I’ll see her Goethe and raise her a George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, later George Gordon Noel, 6th Baron Byron, commonly known as Lord Byron. His Adventures of Don Juan (pronounced “Joo-en”) was one of the great trials I had to endured in my Romantic Lit class at the UW. Byron goes somewhere, stands before a great monument like a Pyramid or the Parthenon, strikes a pose, and then gasses on endlessly about how it reminds him of himself. It. Never. Ends.

C.S. Lewis scrawled on the back flyleaf of his copy the immortal words. “NEVER AGAIN.”

I like a lot of the English Romantics (Germans, not so much). I retain a fondness for Wordsworth and Coleridge. And I think George MacDonald stands solidly in the English Romantic tradition, as does C.S. Lewis and Chesterton, in their own ways. It was a literary tradition trying to re-connect with the Catholic sacramental vision so brutally denied it by the police state erected by the Tudors and what followed. At its best, it still has the power to move. But man, when it get self-absorbed and egoistic it can really sour.

On the bright side, I love what Tim Powers does with Byron in The Anubis Gates.

  • Peter Gallagher

    Hi Mark,
    Try Don Juan again… You may have had to endure the Literary presentation, rather than the wise-cracking, anti-clerical but oh-so-catholic (only small “c” and only if you’re Irish or Italian) Byron. He’s funny, conflicted, cynical and … Well, modern in a way that none of the Romantics were (in Don Juan, anyway).
    Please try the illustrated, audio version (free sample on my website) and reconsider. He wasn’t wildly popular for nothing.

    Best,

    Peter

  • http://prodigalnomore.wordpress.com/ The Ubiquitous

    What was it that Powers did with Byron? Read that book but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was Byron was all about.

  • JB

    From when I attempted to read Werther in German, the only word of it I remember is “schwindeln”, a verb meaning something like “spiralling downward dizzily”. To my mind it still encapsulates the entire novel as well as what’s most arrogantly tiresome about the German national character. (I’m inclined to believe the Bavarian Pope Benedict would agree with me, and btw I’m half-Kraut although third generation immigrant stock.)

    It’s a kindred spirit of the rationalisation used by many Nazis who committed suicide rather than be occupied by the Russians or Americans (they had good reasons to fear the Russians, but killing yourself over being occupied by Americans was just stupid, at least in 1945): “Better an end with horror than a horror without end.” As the historian John Lukacs has written about that line, “It sounds like it makes sense, but it really doesn’t.”

    The Church teaches – correctly as always – that suicide is instrinsically evil, although the Church also acknowledges that many suicides are committed in great pain or mental illness and are therefore not necessarily mortal sins. HOWEVER, killing oneself over so-called “romantic love” – or over it’s 21st century corruption, “relationships” – or over any other forms of emotional vanity, is intrinsically just bloody stupid.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVUXPjFWfX4

  • LarryD

    Anubis Gates did include Byron – brainwashed and in two places at once (don’t want to say more). But I liked what Powers did with him even more in The Stress of Her Regard, which also included Keats and Shelley. That book was even better, IMHO.

  • http://www.chesterton.org Sean P. Dailey

    Tim Powers has even more fun with Byron — and Shelly, and Keats — in The Stress of her Regard. The Romantic poets, vampires, lamia, the Hapsburgs, all running around Italy causing mayhem and havoc: it doesn’t get any better than that.

    • Rachel K

      I also came into the comboxes with no other purpose than to recommend The Stress of Her Regard. Excellent, excellent book. I haven’t read Anubis Gate yet, though.

      • Beadgirl

        And now I’m adding The Stress of Her Regard to my Amazon list.

        I highly recommend The Anubis Gates. Too bad we can’t do a trade!

  • http://znfrey.com/blog/ Zach Frey

    “At least the poor sap knew enough to go away and shoot himself. Today, he’s probably have a blog.”

    Can’t. Stop. Laughing. I, too, was forced to suffer through The Sorrows of Young Werther in school.

  • Mark R

    Mrs. R may still be our univ.’s only Phi Beta Kappa Summa cum Laude German major grad. and recommends avoiding Goethe entirely. Read E.T.A. Hoffman.

  • SouthCoast

    The Sorrows of Werther, by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

    Werther had a love for Charlotte
    such as words could never utter
    Would you know how first he met her?
    She was cutting bread and butter.

    Charlotte was a married lady,
    And a moral man was Werther,
    And for all the wealth of Indies,
    Would do nothing for to hurt her.

    And he sigh’d and pined and ogled,
    And his passion boil’d and bubbled,
    Till he blew his silly brains out,
    And no more was by it troubled.

    Charlotte, having seen his body
    Borne before her on a shutter,
    Like a well-conducted person,
    Went on cutting bread and butter.

  • http://vespersontherocks.blogspot.com/ Kevin J. Bartell

    You’re thinking of Childe Harold. Don Juan’s actually pretty funny, as I recall. Point taken, though; nothing quite matches the lonely grandeur of the self-proclaimed genius . . . or a mountain.

  • antigon

    On the other hand…

    The Destruction of Sennacherib Lord Byron

    The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
    And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
    And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
    When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

    Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
    That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
    Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
    That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

    For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
    And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
    And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
    And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

    And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
    But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
    And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
    And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

    And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
    With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
    And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
    The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

    And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
    And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
    And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
    Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

  • SouthCoast

    I have but one word to say. Swinburne.


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